Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, see our mental health web guide which can point you to expert advice.

Do you think if your family of origin was very unhappy you can ever truly be happy as an adult?

(54 Posts)
lonelyredrobin Sat 22-Dec-12 22:34:41

This is the first time I've posted on Mental Health. I wasn't sure whether to do so as I can see some of the posters on here are in real turmoil and this thread, well, I suppose is a more reflection on my situation and wondering what other people's thoughts were iykwim (sorry, badly expressed!).

Anyway, I'm 35. Throughout my adult life, I've had long periods of discontent, emptiness and alienation - but weirdly, I wouldn't call it depression. It almost feels like my default setting. There are times in my life I've been happy: when I fell in love for the first time, when I did well in exams / jobs, when I was pregnant, times with my children (although, only times, I find it very difficult with them at times sad ).

But the "default setting" always returns - and gets really bad at times so I feel totally alienated from everyone and just want to be alone. Everything feels hard and stressful. I drink more (not loads but too much for me), don;t take care of myself (food, exercise, maintaining friendships etc). I'm in one of those periods at the moment. I've been trying to understand why I'm like this. I've had a little therapy in the past - it helped a bit but not really as much as I thought it would - maybe the therapist.

The thing I keep coming back - the only explanation it seems to me - is my very unhappy family (of origin) life. My mother and father had an extremely unhappy marriage but as practising Catholics would never have divorced. They seriously dislked eachother. My childhood memories are of them either having screaming rows (never violence afaik) or silent treatment for weeks.

I have 3 older brothers (2 much older). None of them were really any support or provided any solidarity to me though this (and nor to eachother). It was like we were 6 people under the same roof but all separate and alone - there was no unity or sense of family.

My weekends as a child were spent in my room, trying to enter myself. We never did anything together as a family and there was no expectation whatsoever that my parents would do acitivities with us. We would all "go our separate ways" under the same roof. We would have our meals together, and then it was like we were cast adrift: look after yourself.

As an adult, I have found close relationships difficult. I hate group situations. I only really tolerate socialising one on one or one on two. I find team work at work difficult. I find my children's neediness for me suffocating - I push them away and crave being alone.

I don't want to be this sort of person. I don't know how to change. I don't know if I can. Is my past so deeply engrained there's no way to break free?

Any thoughts welcome. Thank you.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Wed 26-Dec-12 18:13:10

I had an unhappy childhood with a dysfunctional upbringing but I am a happy adult. It took me a while to get there and there are fleeting times when I get that self-doubt that I somehow don't deserve happiness but it is just fleeting for the most part now. It took counselling and hard work to get to where I am but I am glad I finally have.

amillionyears Wed 26-Dec-12 18:19:07

Can I ask how many years the counselling took?
You dont have to say if you dont want to.

Dededum Wed 26-Dec-12 18:21:40

Mine was an intense eight days at a residential course. Expensive but fast track.

amillionyears Wed 26-Dec-12 18:24:56

JustFabulous.
It sounds like you are in a happy situation right now.

I have learnt to deal in life with one day at a time. It has taken me a few years to do this.
If there is not trouble today right now, there is not trouble.
But it is much better. Because else, a person can always be worrying about tomorrow, and today, which may be a nice day, can pass people by.

In short, if and when you can, live for today.

JustFabulous Wed 26-Dec-12 18:33:30

I can't even do that as I panic immediately what it isn't going to last confusedhmmsad.

Salbertina Wed 26-Dec-12 18:37:53

Op- i also cd have written that, completely get what you're saying.

However, i think (western/movie) cultural push to strive for happiness is, at best, misguided, at worst deeply damaging. As others have said, aiming for the very occasional spark of sudden contentment is more realistic, imho.. The buddhist view that Life IS suffering-disease, ageing, death makes much sense to me and is strangely comforting.. Ditto yrying to be mindful and living in tge moment as far as possible.
I say all this but am a miserable cow fail much of the time. Is a good philosophy of life though. Dont know if that helps.

amillionyears Wed 26-Dec-12 18:40:24

hmm. I just googled for websites on how to enjoy today, and couldnt find any good ones.

The thing is your tomorrow has come, and it is actually nice.

Perhaps if you are feeling happy or content right now, you could put a tick in a book. And when you get another happy or content moment or time, you put that in the book too. And so on.

Salbertina Wed 26-Dec-12 18:43:21

Jf- don't beat yourself up for that, many people feel that, only natural, i reckon. Again those wise buddhist talk about the impermanence of everything...

Salbertina Wed 26-Dec-12 18:45:03

And Million is v wise also! ( waves hello)

FiveFestiveFlowers Wed 26-Dec-12 18:53:37

ededum Wed 26-Dec-12 17:52:14

"I did not have an unhappy childhood as such, I was we'll cared for but my parents were very into their lives and I was deeply lonely, a very adult, self sufficient childhood. As a teenager I dranK a lot, took drugs etc..

I recognise that knawing depression, which is always there. For me it was an idea of never being good enough, never asking for help and not believing that anyone was interested in me and what I had to say. I functioned well, achieved etc... But I was always disconnected."

I could have written your post ededum sad

I'm glad you found help and I will look up the Hoffman process, thank you.

Salbertina Wed 26-Dec-12 18:56:23

Ive also heard good things about Hoffman, not cheap tho but then neither is therapy...

Salbertina Wed 26-Dec-12 18:59:12

Oliver James a fan, called it a quick fix.. Too good to be true??

amillionyears Wed 26-Dec-12 19:02:02

<waves to Salbertina>

RandomMess Wed 26-Dec-12 19:14:35

My struggling is that I know I have no-one to rely on ever, if the chips are down I don't have anyone to turn to.

I am disconnected from others generally, I have long term depression and apparantly a very very critical internal voice (thanks parents!)

Salbertina Wed 26-Dec-12 19:18:09

Have you tried therapy, Rm, in particular transactional analysis? Much focus on critical parent, games people play, conditional love etc. Helped me a lot.

Dededum Wed 26-Dec-12 19:23:58

Hoffman - not a quick fix in that you have to give yourself over it to 100%, you are totally stripped bare in a safe, communal environment. No crutches, no phone, tv, Internet, books, newspapers, booze...

Everything you do for 8 days is therapy, other than sleeping and eating. You don't really have a down time. It sounds a bit cultish but isn't.

Think for me it was a chance to start again, it's like all my buttons have been disabled, my parents push them but I don't respond. That gives you choices in how you progress with your life, you are no longer trapped in your childhood. The Hoffman process talks about patterns and stopping negative patterns, that allows you to build new loving patterns. I can't change my patterns but I can change how I react to them.

RandomMess Wed 26-Dec-12 19:25:45

I've had lots of psycotherapy and because I hold down a job I no longer qualify for help on the NHS. I'm no contact with my parents which has helped in some ways but it doesn't change the fact I am on my own I don't belong anywhere all my good friends have loving family and closer friends etc etc Im just a billy no mates when push comes to shove, no amount of therapy will change that.

happybubblebrain Wed 26-Dec-12 19:26:36

I do think you can be happy in the future. I think the mind is a powerful thing. I think happiness is in part a decision.

I had a hard time growing up. I wasn't wanted by my family. I was often bullied and felt like a complete outsider. But I've been determined for the last 10 or 15 years that it wasn't going to make me miserable for the rest of my life.

I think my life still needs plenty of work. But I try and move towards the things that are positive and make me happy as much as possible. It's hard to recognise these things sometimes. Life is hard work. I used to be happy about 5% of the time, ok 20% and miserable 75%. Now I'm happy about 50% of the time and rarely miserable. I don't think anybody can expect to be happy all the time.

I think self-help books work, good friends, talking, counselling maybe, doing things you love doing, getting enough sleep, eating well. Don't let the actions of others get you down. Don't rely on anybody else for your happiness. You can be in charge of you own emotions and the way you feel about yourself. Treat yourself as you would a really good friend and be kind.

OP - I wish you lots of happiness in the year ahead.

MULLYPEEP Wed 26-Dec-12 19:35:36

I second the transactional analysis. It has changed my perspective and given me great tools for dealing with lives ups and downs. Mine was 35 per session.

amillionyears Wed 26-Dec-12 19:50:28

Some good posts here.

RandomMess, having no contact with parents is hard.
Do you have any other relatives to help at all?

When you say you dont belong anywhere, do you mean that in an emotional sense, or a physical sense, as iin you have moved around a lot and dont feel like any place is home?

RandomMess Wed 26-Dec-12 19:54:10

Nope because I was youngish when I ran away to uni and everyone thinks my family was good/perfect so how could I be in contact with my relatives and not my parents, it has cost me not having any family.

Emotionally I don't belong anywhere, ILs aren't interested, dh is emotionally distant and my few friends all have more significant family/friends in their lives because they are healthier than me and have those connections.

Salbertina Wed 26-Dec-12 20:01:43

Well you're not alone,RM plenty of us in same boat. I understand what you mean about others (seemingly?) having more significant others, have generally felt that too. I try to fight it tho as don't want to feel victim any more than i already am. We
all have different crosses to bear and this is mine. Not easy though.

amillionyears Wed 26-Dec-12 20:08:40

Would you like to say what your parents behaviour was like when you were young?
Apologies if you have said about it elsewhere already.
And do you have a disability?

RandomMess Wed 26-Dec-12 20:09:00

I suppose with the few friends I'm closest too they really do have warm loving families (not necessarily their parents) it is very apparant and it makes it even harder to try and reach out to them because it doesn't feel like a balanced friendship.

It's not about the victim mentality or bearing a cross it's the reality that when life gets too much I just drown silently because there isn't anyone to pick up the phone to and call.

Salbertina Wed 26-Dec-12 20:14:55

Rm, was talking about me- my counsellor warns me against playing victim role, reverting to type so am extra wary. There may be a parallel for others, or not.
You have those friends though- they obviously think you're worth bothering with. Also MN. Where we are now i have plenty of acquaintances, no proper friends. A couple of good ones in the uk tho have been avoiding them blush- cant quite handle too much RL communication atm even by email

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now